The striped whipsnake occurs across 11 western U.S. states and into Mexico but has experienced population declines in parts of its range, particularly in Washington.
Researchers analyzed nuclear and mitochondrial DNA extracted mainly from shed skins to assess local genetic diversity and differentiation within and between the last known whipsnake populations in Washington. Microsatellite data analyses indicated that there was comparable genetic diversity between the two small, extant Washington populations, but gene flow may be somewhat limited. Scientists found evidence that Washington whipsnakes are most closely related to those in Oregon. This investigation into the whipsnake population genetic diversity and differentiation using shed skins as a source of DNA demonstrates a unique method for evaluating the status of secretive snake species that are difficult to observe or study. The genetic information provided may serve as an early warning of extinction risk caused by population declines and isolation while there is still time to implement conservation actions and measure their benefits.
Pilliod, D.S., Hallock, L.A., Miller, M.P., Mullins, T.D., Haig, S.M., 2020, Conservation genetics of the imperiled Striped Whipsnake in Washington, USA: Herpetological Conservation and Biology, v. 15, no. 3, p. 597-610, http://www.herpconbio.org/Volume_15/Issue_3/Pilliod_etal_2020.pdf